REVISES HEADLINE, ADDS DETAILS
By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) – Police rushed to a London mosque Thursday after a man stabbed a Muslim prayer leader in the neck.
The attack took place at Regent’s Park Mosque and the attacker was subsequently arrested by police on suspicion of attempted murder.
A video posted on social media showed a white man in a red-hooded top and jeans being pinned to the floor in the mosque by police, who were arresting him.
The victim was in his 70s and had attended the mosque for 25 years as well as being the muezzin, or person who performs the call to prayer.
“A 29-year-old man, who is believed to have been attending prayers, was arrested inside the mosque on suspicion of attempted murder. He has been taken into custody at a central London police station. The incident is not being treated as terror-related at this time,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The Met’s chief superintendent for the central-west borough, Helen Harper, said: “I would like to thank everybody in the mosque who helped to detain the man before he was arrested and continue to help my officers with their inquiries. I’m extremely relieved the injuries suffered by the victim do not appear to be life-threatening.”
“However, this incident has undoubtedly caused a great deal of concern, and we are working as swiftly as possible to establish the circumstances. No other suspects are being sought at this time.”
There were conflicting reports as to whether the attacker was known in the mosque or not. Some worshippers said they had seen him before and others not.
Regent’s Park Mosque is one of the largest in the U.K., with 6,000 Muslims a week praying there.
In a statement, the mosque said: “There was an incident today at London Central Mosque where an unknown individual attacked and stabbed the muezzin during Asr prayer around 3 p.m.”
“The attacker was apprehended by the worshippers until the police arrived and arrested him. The muezzin did not sustain any life-threatening injuries but was seriously injured and is being treated at the hospital.
“We await further information from the police regarding the incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the muezzin and his family.”
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We condemn this attack. Our thoughts and prayers are with the muezzin and those at London Central Mosque, its leaders and congregants.”
“Although the details of the incident are still coming through, it is deeply distressing to hear of an attack of this nature, with worshippers being targeted in a mosque, a place of spiritual sanctuary.
“Regardless of the motive of the attacker, we must remain calm but vigilant, as we aim to balance the importance of retaining mosques as open spaces and the security of worshippers. In this light, we will be reissuing our safety advice to mosques across the country.
“Whilst many Muslims may be fearful, it is heartening to see faith and community leaders expressing their solidarity and support,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a brief statement on the incident on Twitter.
“I'm deeply saddened to hear of the attack at the London Central Mosque. It's so awful that this should happen, especially in a place of worship. My thoughts are with the victim and all those affected.”